Leadtime Leader Q&A: Planning Ahead

MoldMaking Technology's 2003 Leadtime Leaders shed some light on their plans for the upcoming year.
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Each month the winners of MoldMaking Technology magazine's First Annual Leadtime Leader Award Competition assemble in this regular column to discuss a plethora of industry hot topics. The award-designed to recognize outstanding U.S. moldmaking shops and their ability to succeed in today's global mold market-highlighted six shops that showed outstanding performance in the following areas: leadtime, current and projected sales growth, innovation in the moldmaking process as well as innovation in the business side of moldmaking, technology, industry involvement and customer service.

Steve Johanns, managing director, business development, Advance Tool, Inc. (Blaine, MN)
We see 2004 as a year of growth in the industry as well as our business. We have been working hard to maintain business levels by replacing lost U.S. business with new customers over the last two years and see a real opportunity to take advantage of the shift in the business landscape by focusing on:

1. New customer development
2. Expansion of global operations and service
3. Continued improvements on internal cost and leadtimes

Everything we will be doing in 2004 will revolve around value creation and internal cost improvements. We also will continue to keep getting the word out through focused marketing efforts on our capabilities and record of success. I feel as optimistic as I have in more than two years going forward with the opportunities for ATI.

Jason Jepsen, Tech Centre manager, Eimo Americas (Vicksburg, MI)
Our company recently has been acquired by an Asian-based global company called Foxconn. With the uncertainties that this brings to any newly purchased company, it's somewhat difficult to plan and forecast for the upcoming year without fully knowing the parent company's intentions. Our tooling division, where I work, will continue to implement and refine the lean manufacturing practices that we started over a year ago. We originally started with lean to remain competitive in this global arena. We have managed to stay relatively busy in an otherwise difficult and slow period for U.S. moldmakers. We attribute much of this to our commitment to lean and continuous improvement efforts.

I anticipate the upcoming fiscal year to be busy as well. We already know of some new programs coming our way after the first of the year. The opportunities for new work and new customers seems promising with the help of our new and much larger parent company, Foxconn. Without question, however, leadtime reductions and speed-to-market will continue to be our primary focus.

Rich Burman, president, Graphic Tool Corp. (Itasca, IL)
We will continue to serve our existing customers with the latest machinery and technology available. We will invest in additional equipment and add new customers, as the economy allows. Our outlook for 2004 is upbeat. We currently see an increase in business, and expect this trend to continue well into next year.

Tim Windingstad, operations manager, M&M Tool & Mold, Inc. (Green Bay, WI)
In March of 2003 we purchased a tool shop in the Metro-Milwaukee area. We have benefited from the automation in our Green Bay facility and would like to incorporate similar technology in the Germantown facility. We also would like to determine what is the next level of automation for our Green Bay facility.

Currently, some of our machinery dials up employees' cell phones if their program is interrupted. We plan on adding some network lines so that screen shots can be seen online. At times, false signals are sent and machinery is still running; being able to view the screens online will prevent toolmakers from making unnecessary trips back to the shop.

As we continue to upgrade ourselves and fine-tune our processes for expedited deliveries, we will need to pursue more customers to fill time created by our efficiencies. With today's electronic technologies for data transfer and web meetings, geography is not such a limiting factor. We feel that customers can be effectively served nationwide. All of these plans are being considered with a primary goal in mind-servicing our customers as best we can.

Wayne Shakal, business development manager, Ultra Tool Group (Grantsburg, WI)
Our goal for 2004 is to continue to increase our tooling market share for the high-volume single and multishot molding arena. Although we have always been a company that has tried to push the envelope from a moldmaking standpoint, this past year has definitely eclipsed the previous twenty-four years with respect to change. There has been no shortage of adversity to overcome during this time of transition; fortunately, the results that our clients are experiencing though using our proprietary tooling technologies is providing them substantial returns. I heard someone say one time that to succeed as a technology-driven company you must 'give your customers what they need, not what they want.' In other words, we are doing things that many molders don't even know is available to them. For 2004, we've chosen around twenty corporations that need what we provide. Our job will be to educate them on how our tooling innovation is going to improve their bottom line. Once that is accomplished, becoming a supplier is a foregone conclusion.